Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for a friend.
Or his wife.
One of the veterans killed when a freight train slammed into a parade float in West Texas died a hero, pushing his wife to safety before losing his own life in the tragic accident.
Four people were killed and 16 others injured Thursday afternoon when the float tried to pass through a Midland railroad crossing on its way to an honorary banquet.
Among the dead was Army staff sergeant Joshua Michael, 34, who pushed his wife Daylyn from the float just before the locomotive stuck, a friend of the Michael family told NBC's Today show.
“I think it was just pandemonium more than anything else,” said Corey Rogers. “Obviously, Joshua had the reaction of a real man."
Robert A. Heinlein wrote of a very similar man a long time ago in an address he gave at the US Naval Academy (his alma mater), The Pragmatics of Patriotism:
One Sunday afternoon a young married couple were crossing these tracks. She apparently did not watch her step, for she managed to catch her foot in the frog of a switch to a siding and could not pull it free. Her husband stopped to help her.
But try as they might they could not get her foot loose. While they were working at it, a tramp showed up, walking the ties. He joined the husband in trying to pull the young woman's foot loose. No luck - -
Out of sight around the curve a train whistled. Perhaps there would have been time to run and flag it down, perhaps not. In any case both men went right ahead trying to pull her free...and the train hit them.
The wife was killed, the husband was mortally injured and died later, the tramp was killed - - and testimony showed that neither man made the slightest move to help himself.
The husband's behavior was heroic - - but what we expect of a husband toward his wife: his right, and his proud privilege, to die for his woman. But what of the nameless stranger? Up to the very last second he could have jumped clear. He did not. He was still trying to help this woman he had never seen before in his life, right up to the very instant the train killed him. And that's all we'll ever know about him.
This is how a man dies.
This is how a man...lives!
That passage can be found in Heinlein's book Expanded Universe. It's a collection of stories, essays, and polemics, and Heinlein supposedly specified that it was only to be published in the United States, as it contained hard words for his fellow Americans about their habits and lifestyles that we see bearing out these very days we live in now. It should be on every Heinlein fan's bookshelf, right next to Starship Troopers.
Rest in peace, Staff Sergeant Joshua Michael. You died a hero. Prayers go out to your widow, and to all those killed/injured in this crash.